Atlantic Ocean circulation underpinning the Gulf Stream is weaker than at any point in the last 1,000 years largely due to climate change and could cause disastrous sea level rise along the U.S. Eastern Seaboard, according to new research published Thursday in Nature Geoscience. The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) forms something of a 10,000-mile conveyor belt that redistributes and stabilizes ocean heat and salinity and is largely responsible for Europe’s mild climate. As rising temperatures driven by humans’ extraction and combustion of fossil fuels melt arctic sea ice and freshwater ice from Greenland, an enormous amount of colder and less-salty water is introduced into the Northern Atlantic, weakening ocean currents.
“As the current slows down, more water can pile up at the U.S. East Coast, leading to an enhanced sea level rise [in places like New York and Boston],” Dr. Levke Caesar, a climate physicist at Maynooth University in Ireland, told CBS. Further weakening of the AMOC would increase the number and severity of storms hitting Britain and make European heat waves more common. Without action to dramatically cut greenhouse gas pollution, it is possible for the AMOC to stop altogether, but an abrupt stop that sets off a global cataclysm as depicted in The Day After Tomorrow is unlikely. (Washington Post $, The Guardian, CBS, Inside Climate News, The Hill, FT $, The Independent, E&E $)